Looking for freelance writing opportunities seemed a natural when I was laid off after 20 plus years in corporate, benefits and marketing communications arenas and the job market was soft. What I found is many low paying sites, but that I actually liked the freedom of working from home and being a writer for hire. The optimist in me believed that the money earned would increase with time, which it has. Here are some traits I needed for freelance writing success:
Think broadly – Types of firms hiring writers that I’ve found fall in to three types:
- Third party content providers where you establish a reputation for knowledge covering certain types of things: These typically pay a set amount per piece or per word. You may get to pick from a list of assignments or will pass you some directly . Some assignments have had my byline, some are just writing content for another company’s Web site, and some are ghostwritten. I’ve had content published on sites of newspapers, health plans, etailers , retailers, insurance companies, and others.
- Freelance sites where you bid on jobs: This area was the most frustrating. You are competing with people in third-world countries, particularly in South Asia, who are willing to write for very little in American dollars. I did a few jobs, but they really weren’t worth the hassle of combing through postings and bidding low to get them.
- Online publications or sites like this one, where there are some set assignments, but you also have the latitude to cover topics you are interested in and have them published. Most sites like this might pay a small amount upfront for a story, but you are paid on the backend for the traffic generated. Other sites do not give you anything up front; pay is strictly based on Web traffic. It’s a gamble that can pay.
Flexibility – If you are writing for fun, you can be picky about the topics. I personally need to cover a mortgage, so I cast a wide net for types of writing assignments and companies using freelancers. In the last year, I’ve written about health and other types of insurance, cookware and cooking, health care research studies, Broadway shows, personal and business finance, and more.
Patience Pays Better – Building a client base and income requires time and paying your dues. For some sites, that may mean writing pieces that pay little or nothing to get experience with them. I did some work for one company in January that hardly paid anything, but got my foot in the door. The same company contacted me a few months later for an assignment that paid several hundred dollars. Another firm had me write some updated Web content for a client; that led to work for several other areas. On sites that pay based on hits, realize that you are building residual income and increasing it is coming with each article published. Some writers find out how little they are earning the first month or two and give up without giving it time to build. P ieces I wrote in February are still paying some money monthly, along with pieces from March, April, etc. I’m not going to get rich on any, but the greater the number and time period , the more income overall they will generate.
Have fun – If you don’t need the income, you can blog or publish at whim. If, like me, you need the money, have fun with the process. Combine writing some items for the money and writing some articles because you love the topic or have something to say. For sites where I have leniency in topics I cover, I have reviewed museum exhibitions, ballet performances, restaurants in my area, and written pieces on my previous corporate life, etc. This lets me write about topics of interest to me.